Germany Genealogy

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The FamilySearch moderator for Germany is Baerbel

Guide to German ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

Country Information

Germany is a vibrant country with a rich history and heritage. As with many countries of Europe, Germany has seen dramatic changes to its borders and even its internal regions. Over the centuries, Germany consisted of numerous independent kingdoms, duchies, principalities, and states. Then in 1871 all German-speaking states except the Austrian states were consolidated into the German Empire. [1] This construct is still seen in Germany today.

Place-names and county, province, and state jurisdictions also changed, often more than once. Because of these changes, you may discover that it is difficult to find the name of your German ancestor's town on a modern map. You may also have trouble determining the jurisdiction where their records were kept. Various resources are available to help you find that information and will be included here.

Getting Started

Getting Started with Germany Research

Links to articles on getting started with German research:

See More Research Strategies

Germany Research Tools

Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:

See More Research Tools

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Finding Research Instructions for Your Specific Locality

  • To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Germany will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in.
  • Details about the town will also help:
    • the county or "Bezirkamt" of that town,
    • where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
    • where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
    • if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.

If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png If you know the name of the town/city, consult a gazetteer for more details. See Meyer's Gazetteer or a regional online gazetteer.

1. If Your Town of Origin is in Modern-day Germany

If you know today's state in Germany, you can use the Clickable Map or the Jurisdictions - 1945 to the Present list. Click on the state you need. You will be linked to a detailed article on how to do research in that state.

Germany Clickable Map - Present

Using the map, click on the state name, or use the state links below.

Schleswig-HolsteinMecklenburg-VorpommernHamburgBremen|Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony)Berlin|BrandenburgNordrhein-WestfalenSaxony-AnhaltHessenThüringenSachsen (Saxony)Rheinland-Pfalz (Palatinate)SaarlandBaden-WürttembergBayern (Bavaria)Modern Germany map2.png
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Jurisdictions - Present

Germany (English)

Germany (Deutsch)

2. If Your Town Is in a Territory Germany Lost in 1919 or 1945

There are wiki articles explaining how to do research in former territories of Germany. Study the map below and click on the correct region in the List of Former German Territories, the Date of the Boundary Change, and the Current Country.

North SchleswigMemelFree City of DanzigFree City of DanzigPomeraniaUpper SilesiaSilesiaHultschiner LaendchenPosenWest PrussiaPosenWest PrussiaSouthern East PrussiaSilesiaNorthern East PrussiaHultschiner LaendchenPomeraniaSilesiaAlsace-LorrainePomeraniaMalmedy-EupenAlsace-LorraineAlsace-LorraineCountries formerly in Germany.png
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List of Former German Territories, the Date of the Boundary Change, and the Current Country

Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen), 1919:France
Brandenburg: the Neumark region, 1945: Poland
East Prussia, 1945:

Memel Territory, Memelland or Memelgebiet, north of the Neman River and including the city of Klaipėda, occupied by Lithuania in 1923, occupied by Germany 1939-1945.

Eupen-Malmédy, 1919: Belgium
Free City of Danzig, 1945: Poland
North Schleswig, 1919: Denmark
Pomerania, 1945:

Posen, 1919: Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie, Poland
Silesia (Schlesien),1945:

Upper Silesia, 1919: Poland
West Prussia, 1919: Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

3. Finding Your Town in the FamilySearch Catalog

Prior to unification, Germany consisted of many duchies, principalities, provinces, and states. The records of towns in Germany are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog by their location in 1871. First, find your town in the online Meyer's Gazetteer. The jurisdictions listed in the gazetteer do not match today's states. For example, many small principalities were combined to make today's Thuringia. This list shows the location you will see in the gazetteer, but when you click on the link, it will take you to today's location and the correct research instructions.

Research Instructions by 1864-1871 Region



Prussian States

Thuringian States (map)

Germany Clickable Map - 1864-1871

Many states are too small to make clickable. You will need to access them from the list after the map.

Schleswig-HolsteinHannoverMecklenburg-SchwerinLübeckHamburgBremenPomerania (Pommern)West Prussia (Westpreußen)East Prussia (Ostpreußen)PosenBrandenburgMecklenburg-StrelitzSaxony (Sachsen)AnhaltBrunswick (Braunschweig)LippeWestphalia (Westfalen)WaldeckRhineland (Rheinland)Hessen-NassauHessen|OldenburgSaxony (Sachsen)Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen)Bavaria (Bayern)Bavaria (Bayern)BadenWürttembergNew Germany map.png
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More Germany Research Strategies and Tools

FamilySearch Resources

Below are FamilySearch resources that can assist you in researching your family.


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Germany," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 23 March 2016.